Written By: Andrew Wherley, Third-Year Student Pharmacist, and Jula Mahler, Second-Year Student Pharmacist
Every year, pharmacists and student pharmacists from across the state of Maryland gather in Annapolis to inform Maryland legislators and their aides about important pharmacy-focused legislation. February 20 marked the 18th annual Legislative Day for our profession, and the School of Pharmacy was proud to have more than 150 students in attendance for this special event. Students from both the Baltimore and Shady Grove campuses attended, with a particularly large presence from first-year student pharmacists.
Identifying the Important Issues
Legislative Day is sponsored by the Maryland Pharmacy Coalition (MPC), which represents the unified legislative stance of its seven members:
- Maryland Society of Health-System Pharmacy (MSHP)
- Maryland Pharmacists Association (MPhA)
- Maryland Chapter-American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (MD-ASCP)
- Maryland Pharmaceutical Society (MPhS)
- Student Government Associations (SGAs) from each school of pharmacy in the state, including the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy, and Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy
As the legislative season starts each year, the MPC reviews all bills filed with the General Assembly, paying special attention to those pertaining to pharmacy practice. The MPC then meets to form a consensus on these bills. If all seven primary voting members come to unanimous agreement on a bill, the MPC will take a stance of support, support with amendments, or oppose. The coalition then develops position statements for each bill for which a unified consensus was reached. These statements become the foundation for the discussion points that we present during our meetings with legislators and their aides on Legislative Day. Student pharmacists and MPC representatives from the School of Pharmacy, Andrew Wherley and Julia Mahler (the authors of this post), wrote several of the consensus statements on behalf of the MPC.
Making Our Voices Heard
If you ask any advocacy group why it’s important to talk loudly and often about their profession or cause, you’re likely to hear the phrase, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” It’s very easy to wonder what difference one voice can make, but the answer is simple: a much bigger difference than no voice at all. When an army of voices speaks directly to the people who make the changes, incredible transformations can occur. Over the years, the commitment of student pharmacists to serving as the voice of the future of our profession on Legislative Day has made numerous differences in how we are able to practice, including:
- The ability for pharmacists to prescribe oral contraception
- The ability for pharmacists to enter into collaborative practice agreements
- The ability for pharmacists to administer influenza vaccines to all patients nine years and older
- The ability for pharmacists to administer any vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — both routine and travel vaccines — to patients ages 11-17 (with a prescription) and patients 18 years and older (no prescription required)
For our part, we particularly enjoyed watching the first-year students learn about pharmacy law and share their perspectives with senators and delegates. It helps them better understand early-on how important it is that student pharmacists have a stake in the future of their profession.
To see more students’ stories on Legislative Day, you can search social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag “#MDPharmacyCares.”